Tag Archives: quiet

The Inner Country

“The path to Truth begins with the self. We cannot properly isolate, identify, or analyze the self, because it is the subject about which we know the least.” – Richard Rose

            The conscious attention, or ego, sits on the doorstep between two worlds: that of the outer country of our senses commonly called reality, and the world of the mind, our inner realm, the undiscovered country. While much can be said of the outer world of the senses, little is known by most of us of our inner country, a world of automatic responses and unquestioned beliefs, hidden in darkness, projected onto our hapless neighbors.

Even those of us on the spiritual path, professed seekers of truth, rarely enough venture into the unknown country behind our eyelids. We tend to avoid this inner space, side stepping it in favor of imagination. We create a conceptual idea of ourselves in our head, one which fits our needs and fears, and then believe in it. The true state of our mind and emotions is avoided and exiled, an active but unconscious shadow in the darkness within.

Ski Trail
Ski Trail

This refusal to look at our inner state is not only because we are cowards, ignorant, and/or blind. It is necessary. The mind could not go on about its business in day-to-day affairs in the hustle of modern life if it questioned itself. Things could come to a halt.

One of the ways we avoid the inner realm is through what I call the game of ‘stay away’. We refuse to look at anything about ourselves that doesn’t fit the script. An extreme example of this is found today in neo-advaita types, while a generation or two ago it was seen in the radical side of Hare Krishna’s, and even earlier with ‘Jesus freaks’. The game is played by having a tight 5-10 minute circle of unbreakable logic which is repeated over and over, both to oneself as well as others. This is a very effective form of self-hypnosis which enables it’s practitioner to stay away from all consciousness of any inner emotional turmoil.

Another trick is that of placing the ego in an intangible form so that it cannot be attacked. These folks have no practical ego to speak of, meaning they have no real skills, no career, no interest which is actually carried out in the world. But to function the ego has to have an object, so if they are unwilling or incapable of identifying with a practical aspect of life, they find a concept, an archetype, or an image with which to identify. These images are invisible and intangible, so there is no risk of failure or success associated with believing in them. The trap is almost fool proof and extremely hard to break free of. Examples are seen often in New Age archetypes, such as the ‘goddess’, the ‘warrior’, the ‘sage’, etc. Even political and religious concepts can be effective shields against our personal truth, such as being politically correct or morally self-righteous. The common thread is an inability to handle tension or resistance. There can be no failure or questioning of an inner goddess, it can’t be seen or corroborated, so the person has an excuse not to face themselves, no matter what.

The trick of transference is seen in those who avoid their inner country by projecting it onto others. They have nothing to work on in themselves (being perfect, the ego’s main characteristic) so they spend their time helping others less fortunate (the rest of us). In this manner, they never have to see themselves as they are, for all imperfection surely lies in others, out there. They feel they are fortunate to be able to spend their time in helping, while their victims, their unlucky friends and acquaintances, must bear the burden of the ‘helpers’ unresolved inner conflicts.

ski for light
ski for light

An example of this was driven home to me when I worked at a ski resort. A group of blind cross country skiers came for a week, from the wonderful organization Ski for Light. There were over a hundred of the blind skiers, along with their guides and coaches. I assumed that the skiers, being blind, would be in need of much help, and their guides must be selfless saints to volunteer for such an undertaking. I had it exactly backwards. The skiers were the ones with the greater being, and needed no help traveling freely about their inner country. The guides on the other hand, while sighted in the outer world, were, perhaps unknowingly, being taught humility, faith, patience and wisdom by their unsighted charges.

I’ll never forget this surprising contrast: the guide bragging at dinner how she had been blessed not to have to work so she could give her time to ‘helping’ the less fortunate. The resort staff soon became fully aware of who was helping who. Her blind student was easy to wait on, not at all demanding, while the guide required constant attention, everything had to be prepared to her individual specifications, running us ragged for no real reason other than her inability to act in any way other than self-centered. The blind skier (the true guide) spent the week in infinite patience, a shining example of courage and wisdom, expecting nothing in return.

While these examples may illustrate our ignorance of our own psychology, it also serves to show how our values are reversed by life and its demands. The inner country, the basis for our character, is undiscovered and lacking in meaning, while our outer life of body and ego is given first priority and the highest value. The soul, with its connection to our inner self, is discarded in favor of saving face and ego. Only when the inner atmosphere is clear and quiet can we hear the true message from our Self. A long and hard journey within to clear the air and underbrush may be arduous, but in the long run, worth any price.

 

Spindrift

In the morn of my soul the track was smooth,
freely would I glide, skis on nothing flew.
I had come from Still and Quiet,
I knew just what to do.

 

Spindrift
Spindrift

Come the afternoon of mind, so came the Spindrift,
blown by the winds of mind, of experience,
to slow my feet, even to stumble.
Stale clouds darkened the path, Spindrift rumbled.

I became obsessed with the track itself,
obsessed with skis, with motion.
Feel of flying, of gliding free, gone, only
trudging, the means itself, the notion.

I no longer felt of flying, no longer the morn of my soul.
It was afternoon, and things had slowed.

From what and how did spindrift-knees-stiff
gain favor?
The fine granules catch my skis, sandpaper,
holds me back, turns the glide to waver.

Is it Spindrift, my mind to slow, my soul to feel anguish?
or attachment to the exact circumstances of the track,
which now leads me nowhere from nothing.
I find the pattern Spindrift, has caused a pattern smothering.

It accuses: ‘you created me’.
I’ve surely now become thee.
Now when skis catch, I catch.
When feet stick, mind sticks.
The pattern evokes a pattern prick,
the pattern’s pattern, anger.

For these reactions happen still, even when the trail is smooth.
It’s echo haunts my mind,
Spindrift, not there, yet binds.
The pattern begets pattern, I became the pattern fine.

 

Through blowing lines of
Spindrift, floating dreams of mind,
my soul in the floating haze doth see,
a steady distant sign.

Nostalgia speaks of earlymorn,
to ski and trudge no more,
of Home, peace and faith instilled,
Still and Quiet, as before…

 

Love, and Reason

Once we’ve had profound realizations on love and intuition, we have to watch for the ego taking these over and saying, “look how special I am, I can now do whatever I want”. You’re not special. This feeling just leads you into another trap that can be seen in the following two different ways: One, is we can think we’re special, and can do whatever we want without consequences. We treat other people however we feel with impunity, because we’re special, “I’m me” and me knows all about love.

Heart of Little Wild Horse
Heart of Little Wild Horse

The other one is, we think we are special and know about love, so we have to save everybody. The ego now has to fix, correct, and save everyone we meet. We forget about taking care of ourselves because we’re too busy rushing around doing everything to everyone, for ‘love’.

These two reactions basically come about from a lack of reason, brought on by base infatuation with ourselves. We have to allow reason to come into our decision-making process to double-check what the emotions, and our ego’s love, are up to. We don’t have to have reason as the final arbiter, the final decision-maker, but we should allow it into the process. It’s very easy to get tricked if we lose our heads, but not our egos, and start running around in love, thinking we’re infallible.

Experiments, in Isolation

” What I suspect we need is not any kind of path or discipline, but a collection of tricks or devices for catching the Dark at the corner of the eye, as it were, and learning how to spot its just-waiting-to-be-seen presence, combined with strategies for stopping the hyperactive survival-programmes from immediately explaining the perception away. D. E. Harding’s exercises for discovering one’s own essential ‘headlessness’ are the best ideas I’ve yet come across for the first half of this process, but, by his own admission, most people ‘get it but simply don’t believe it’ .” – John Wren-Lewis

” Anything that pays the bills or works in the everyday world, including psychological systems, is never able to be rejected or seen for its errors. As long as you pay the bills, you have little chance of escaping your thought patterns. You never get to see how things are on the other side of the street, so to speak. If it works, it is self-maintaining, including all the mistakes built into the mind set.” – Jim Burns

In the above quote, Wren-Lewis has outlined a method for seeing our own ineffable awareness, the first part of which is Douglas Harding’s ‘experiments’ or tricks.  He outlines the second part as the need for a strategy ‘for stopping the hyperactive survival-programs from immediately explaining the perception away’, but only gives a hint as to how to proceed.

The Harding experiments are simple and direct, but must be practiced rather than read about for any effect to occur. I’ve noticed through the years what Wren-Lewis describes as the survival programs immediately explaining the trick away occur again and again, in myself as well as others: someone has a breakthrough at a Harding workshop, after practicing the experiments at home, or even after a spontaneous event while driving or eating, but soon the ego grabs hold of the ‘experience’ and lays claim to it. “Look what ‘I’ did,” it boasts, “’I’ saw what ‘I’ was looking out of, as now I’m seeing it, as I always see it, and so now don’t have to do anything more, so lets get back to the real business of doing whatever we were doing before this seeing nonsense came up.” This last part about getting back to business isn’t actually admitted, even in private, nor announced in public. Soon the person has no connection with the anterior seeing other than a vague memory and a new storyline about how they’ve finally made it to the promised land, end of the road, they’re off the hook.

There is nothing unusual about this. It’s the valuation that’s wrong, for it’s placed on observing a projected memory, rather than on actual seeing in the moment. The person believes that one instance of seeing what they are looking out of has somehow made the seeing permanent, when actually they are being fooled by the ego’s penchant for taking unconsciously referenced and projected memory, as reality. This process happens much faster than conscious worded thought. In a manic mind fraught with the demands of modern living, it is for practical purposes, invisible. The person thinks he is ‘seeing’ when he is actually remembering his seeing, and thus is fooled into never seeing again. How can this survival program of the ego be seen through, and how can we stop it from fooling us so completely? Can we admit our seeing is something that we must practice, perhaps for years, before it becomes an actual real time spontaneous state?

A possible answer occurred to me when I remembered the above quote by Jim Burns. We must somehow still the mind from its pressing quest to believe it has day-to-day life under control in every aspect just long enough to allow the survival program to relax. Then, when a breakthrough such as a moment of seeing what you’re looking out of occurs, you can observe the entire event without the ego’s overwhelming need to add it to its bag of survival tricks, thus relegating it to memory, projection and self-trickery.

A plan of action would require a period of isolation, a time set aside with no human contact. Especially no contact with the human system of emotional reactions such as family, the workplace, and all media, including the news, cell phones and email. Once isolated from outside influence, a person’s hyperactive reaction pattern will lose steam, and any event such as a glimpse into the anterior realm will not be immediately rationalized as a deed of the ego, but can be seen for what it is. The entire pattern of self-deception can be noticed, without identification, from the moment of ‘seeing’ to it’s relegation to memory and the ego’s attempt to claim it, and henceforth project it as proof of its accomplishment. This combination of isolation from outside influence long enough to still the mind, coupled with a earnest desire to perform experiments designed to see our own awareness at work, is a possible scenario for upping our chances at a breakthrough. For some a few days might be enough to break the pattern of mind chatter, for others, several weeks may be necessary. Aids such as fasting, meditation, and a resolve to watch for the need for distraction however it tempts, will help to calm the mind. It is getting harder and harder to find a place where one can be free from the mind’s manic reflections, and still stay reasonably comfortable so as not to spend all one’s time and energy battling the elements and other irritations, but it’s necessity has never been greater. Any effort towards this would be beneficial, any actual practice of it invaluable. The greater the resistance, the greater the reward.

isolation
isolation

The Inner Ashram

Inner Ashram
Inner Ashram

To find a still place within that’s free from the drama of the working world is paramount in our attempt to contact intuition and higher thinking. Once we move out of the patterns of mechanical thinking, we must also leave behind the emotional motivators that cause them, and instead allow the questioning and intent of our spiritual search to come forth. Mechanical thinking will continue to assert itself if we try to solve spiritual problems from the level of mechanical emotions. A vector towards inner truth is the path out of outer reactive tail chasing. We can’t win the battle for control of our thinking if we try from the realm of the battle itself. A higher realm is needed, one of higher emotion than found in the jungle of life.

If we find ourselves afraid to do something because we don’t want to face the emotional reaction the act brings comes up in ourselves, this is a clue that we’re buying into the false world of mechanical reaction.  We imagine how we will react when faced with another person or circumstance and cramp up, remembering how we may have mishandled it previously. We become afraid to do what we need to do, for the thoughts of other’s possible offences raises our defences, and avoiding the situation altogether is added to the mix as well. Fight or flight, the law of the jungle, becomes our only mode of thinking, and the residual emotions from it linger throughout the day, long after the events are over. By the time we get home, we’re full of the unconscious but active vibrations our mechanical upset has created, leaving us in a state of inner turmoil. No wonder week after week goes by, and our spiritual vector remains just below the level needed for dynamic action.

A recovering alcoholic learns quickly that he can no longer associate with his former so-called friends and their negative thought patterns, called “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” in AA. The same may be true for us. The circumstances of our karma and lives may not allow us the freedom of the ashram lifestyle with it’s quiet seclusion, but we can find a place within that gives solace and room to think. Just the humble acceptance of the above quandary will bring help into our soul, and show us the path to inner freedom. This calm mind that can allow our vector to assert itself is found when we drop the pattern of the false self and move into neutral territory long enough to let our defences down, and listen. Move within to a place where reaction is no more, and watchful listening prevails. There you may feel a longing for even more stillness, a faint remembrance of something better, whispering a direction home.

Ache of the Heart

One way to spot the emergence of the false self, the sleep walker and its pattern, is by an ache in the heart, by that tender nerve that gets touched, a longing for escape or

Shipwrecked
Shipwrecked

relief.  This nerve is tender and sensitive from our believing in the world of the false self.  Think of a valid action or event you like, that’s natural and healthy, and the negative guilt reaction it may induce, such as a quiet walk in the park. There’s no material or emotional profit from it, it doesn’t put bread on the table, or pump up someone else’s idea of us, but it helps clear our mind and gives us time alone to think. If during our little walk we find our thoughts drifting to duties, to should’s and could’s, to having to make excuses why we aren’t being productive or perfect(why do we need quiet time, to meditate, what’s wrong with us?), we can shift our attention from the inner world of our negative imaginings, and instead focus on what’s going on in the moment. We then leave the false world of manufactured worry and come back to ourselves. We leave the false world, we wake up.  The ache is because of our attachment to the world of our worry and imaginings: it’s the knot.  Our heart does not ache because things aren’t the way they should be, it aches because we have become attached to our false idea of things, of how we are told we should be. People poke at our life, we get defensive and feel that ache. It’s a sure sign we’re buying into their take, into their false world, it’s hurting our heart because we’re connected to their projections, we believe it, therefore we have to react to it as if it’s real. If we could keep ourselves in our own heart, in ourselves in the moment, then we wouldn’t react to them. When we react, we believe them, for we’ve lost our reason and fallen asleep.  This causes the pain, because we come out of ourselves and allowed the world of imagining and projecting, the land of sleep, to touch us through our believe in it; the knot of the heart.

Buzz Ball or Essence?

“I want to become so lost in experience that I forget myself.  I’ve always got things to think about, lots to do, it saves me from being in the moment. Something in me doesn’t want to face the moment, because it thinks it’s missing out, it’s going to miss something.  Like needing to watch movies, or social networking, browsing endlessly on the web, channel surfing even though I can’t find anything I care about. I like to think that if I would just go home at night and sit in the dark, be quiet, stay away from the endless

Observant Osprey
Observant Osprey

electronic chatter, that I’d be calmer, happier. But when it’s that time, I find myself doing the same old same old,  because I feel that I’m going to miss something.  That if I watch the movie, browse the web, I’ll have done something.  It’s the same way with thinking.  I don’t like to just walk along, or just sit and be empty of reaction.  Something in me wants to be thinking, thinking, thinking all the time because it’s so afraid it’s going to miss something by being quiet.  It’s really strange, I think my mind is like a sort of buzz ball of static, trying to assert itself and stay alive, rather than letting what’s essential, my inner self, come forth and grow. “

If the above statement rings a bell for you, you’ve begun the big battle, the war of the selves. The inner fight between the outer and inner man. This is a huge step on the path, for it shows we’ve come to realize that the battle is within, not with circumstance or others, but with ourselves.

This buzz ball, the mind of static and habit, is opposed to our essence. It is all a matter of identification: what do I see I am? If you’re identified with the buzz ball, then you have to think, plan, do, be nervous, think you’re missing out all the time.  If you’re identified with Essence, then experience doesn’t have to be so regulated or enticed.  It’s just your awareness of existence, and what creates it, that matters. You simply enjoy watching whatever it is that’s there.

Then, words such as those in the Serenity Prayer take on meaning, for we begin to see we may not be the doer after all, but an observer who has very little to do with what’s going on in the play of our lives.

Lord, grant me
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.


Experience is Binding

“Experience is binding” – Bob Cergol

You watch a movie, then notice the next day while you’re working, the movie has your inner movie working along trying to hash it out. The experience of watching the movie is taken by the mind as being real and therefore has to be worked out as if it happened.  This is just like working four or five hard shifts, and then taking two days off for the mind to quiet down and process the mess.  The experience is binding. If you are the type with a very strong personality and mind that are outward oriented, you never get a break from it, you try to still control it all, so that you can win.  This means that the experience is binding to you and you can’t drop it.

The last statement shows why isolations, times spent alone, are so important.  If you spend enough time out of pressing experiences, the inner movie starts to die down and you get a little breathing room.  This could scare you half to death if you’re the type that’s identified with the inner movie, it would feel as if you’re losing your rich inner life.  You don’t want quiet or stillness because that threatens that sense of self, or the self as it is and relates to the ego identified with the inner movie.  If you sit long enough in the quiet, this sense of self gets threatened, you want to rush back into experience in order to regain that feeling of self, of life from drama.

Today’s social networking provides a sense of self to many, keeping Facebook and Twitter in business.  It provides an effective escape from fear of loss of self, and sadly, from facing the Truth about what we really are.  Isolations are important because they show us this inner movie, and the broad extent of its power over us. Quiet time spent alone reveals our inner self through the process of allowing the play and drama of modern life and its character-self to wind down.

quiet time alone
quiet time alone